Four days ago, on August 1st 2012, I officially started editing the master sequence of my feature-length documentary The Illusionists. It’s not really the beginning of the post-production process per se, since – thank goodness – I had been judiciously editing interviews after each location. I can’t imagine beginning from scratch with all the material I gathered… I have in front of me about 150 pages of transcripts (single-spaced), 23 interviews (average length: 30 minutes), copious B-roll from London, Boston, Paris, Milan, Beirut, Tokyo and Mumbai, and hours upon hours of recorded TV commercials and music videos from 6 countries. Thinking about the big picture would bring me pangs of anxiety, so I’m breaking the film down into 10 different “chapters” so to speak. It’s not so bad to think of it as 10 short films – I can do that!
I’ve edited countless short documentaries and short films, as well as a feature-length narrative film… but I have to say, nothing really prepares you for a 90 minute documentary that relies on the word of interviewees. The toughest challenge is listening to interviews over and over again and sandwiching them next to one another. The first few times you listen back, you think: “How great and thought provoking!” But by the 20th time that you’ve re-played the same sequence to check out the rhythm of the film, it may appear as trite and banal. “He/she is saying something I’ve heard before…” Well, of course I’ve heard it before… I’ve been listening to it ad nauseam!
I wish I could live in the world created by Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – I’d have my memory erased at the end of each working day, so that I could accurately assess whether an interview bit is effective.
The film’s micro budget doesn’t permit to hire a full time editor, but I’m planning to get someone once a week. As in, work on the film alone Monday through Thursday and get an extra editor to help on Fridays. I’ll be able to do this starting in September – so four weeks of editing fun all alone – since Paris in August is a ghost town.
Off I go resume editing… Wish me luck!